Akouris: Coal City harkens to basketball glory days
By Tina Akouris email@example.com March 11, 2013 9:00PM
Coal City's Nick Peters (left) and Rich East's Joshua Inyang battle for a rebound during their sectional semifinal game at Rich South High School in Richton Park Wednesday, March 6, 2013. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 13, 2013 6:07AM
Brad Boresi is just 27 years old, one of the youngest — if not the youngest — basketball coach in the Interstate Eight Conference. At times this season it would feel odd being the most junior member of the group.
“Sometimes I feel out of place, but I played against some of those coaches’ (programs),” Boresi said. “They’ve all been very supportive. I think I’m kind of a rarity.”
What he’s done with the Coal City boys basketball program is a feat in and of itself.
The Coalers won a regional title this season, their first since 2001 and only the eighth in school history. They advanced to the Class 3A sectional semifinals, where they lost to Rich East 75-47 Wednesday at Rich South. They finished the season 19-13.
“It was great just getting to that game after seasons where we won only three games and seven games,” said junior point guard Brennen Shetina, who averaged 11 points per game. “We upped the level of competition at sectionals and even moved up a class this year to 3A.”
The Coalers are just getting started. Shetina and fellow juniors Nick Peters (14.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Lane Cowherd figure to make the Coalers a force to be reckoned with next season.
The road to where Boresi, Peters, Shetina and Cowherd got to Wednesday night wasn’t easy.
A sense of history
Boresi, like Peters and many others at Coal City, was a two-sport standout when he attended the school in the early 2000s. He played varsity basketball for three seasons and was the starting quarterback on the football team.
He also knew what it felt like to win. In his three playing seasons, Boresi’s basketball teams won 19, 21 and 19 games.
“So the program was in good shape,” Boresi said.
Mitch Hamann was the coach then — he’s now the school’s principal — and Hamann usually seemed to get a good amount of kids out each year and there was significant interest around the school in how the Coalers were doing.
Then something happened.
“I think some interest decreased and we just weren’t getting the athletes out,” Boresi said. “There were some who should have played and didn’t. The numbers dropped and the interest just wasn’t there.”
How he did it
Boresi took over during the 2010-11 season and the Coalers won three games. The following season they won seven.
“My first goal was to get the numbers back up,” Boresi said. “We had 15 kids come out my second year and we got the kids playing again. It helped that first year to get the younger kids some varsity experience. It really paid off.”
The biggest obstacle Boresi faced was getting the kids who did come out for the team to believe they could win — and win often, especially on the basketball court. The Coalers had success in football. Basketball? Not so much.
After the Plano Tournament in December, Shetina and his teammates started to believe. The Coalers won three in a row, including a victory over Herscher, a team that Coal City had not defeated in nine years.
“I think after Christmas, everyone figured out what we could do,” Shetina said. “(Opponents) used to feel like, ‘Oh, it’s Coal City. This should be an easy win.’ And then it wasn’t.”
In the sectional semifinal, Coal City jumped out to a 27-16 lead with six minutes to play in the first half. The Coalers couldn’t retain their momentum and faced the end of their season.
“I told them that the most important thing was what we had already been through and not to let this (loss) overshadow our first regional win in 12 years,” Boresi said. “We overcame the poor seasons we had the past two years, too.”
Shetina has seen the good and the bad. He’ll be back for more next year and hopes that the Coalers can advance even farther in the postseason. He’s seen the single digits in the win column and now the double digits. And he had his own memorable moment when he hit the game-winning shot — from halfcourt — at the buzzer in a January game against Lisle.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” Shetina said. “It had been a while since I was on a winning team, because in middle school we won a bunch, then I got to high school and we were losing. Now, we’re winning.”